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Are we Living in a Science Fiction Novel?

It seems that lately we are supposed to mention AI every 15 minutes. At least that’s how it feels.

Whether it is going through any news feed or even the emails I get from all sorts of bots I am inundated by all of the ways every single aspect of our lives will use or be changed by generative AI. In fact a good friend recently asked me, “What are 20 ways that HR will use generative AI?”. While I can get into answering that question at a later date, right now I want to talk about my first impressions that range from excitement to paranoia.

I know that I’m not breaking any new ground here, but like so many people, my first glance at this area of technology is that it was super cool. Interacting with a dynamic artificial intelligence that can not only have a conversation but also draw conclusions and offer some level of expertise that goes beyond an individual’s knowledge and experience is pretty neat. The implications as we have all seen and heard about incessantly over the last several months are seemingly endless. AI can write essays, answer questions, write code, develop theories, provide commentary on classic movies, and recommend recipes from a random assortment of ingredients just to name a few.

And of course yes, it can write resumes, cover letters, and thank you notes, and offer reports on any number of things that is the actual work that people normally do. So it’s cool ... and it sucks all at the same time. And that’s just about the written word side of things. It can also create art like we have never seen before and create animation and design work that can and may displace thousands of people doing that kind of work.

So for the independently wealthy this seems like the dawn of a new golden age of content and the opportunity to enjoy it. But for so many others the future of their livelihood becomes a very giant and ominous question mark.

On the one hand I am super excited at the prospect of hopping into a self-driven/flown vehicle, telling it where I want to go and happily preoccupying myself while I wait to be delivered to my destination. That part is still very cool to me, but on the other hand - maybe that’s only because I don’t personally know a lot of people whose jobs will be eliminated in that way.

So then, considering the above observations I too am left with the question, “Is utilizing all that is accessible on the AI front to conduct a job search, or even hiring for that matter, a good or bad idea?”

If AI can be used to write a resume and cover letter, and then be used to review, scan, sort, and ultimately reject candidates for a position, then are we not almost losing the humanity of the process entirely? And are we okay with that? At some point are we just creating another version of the Siri-Alexa-Google conversation?

To engage with all of this technology effectively, like with any aspect of technology, we need to be cautious monitors of what information is being asked for and what is then being delivered. In fact, in terms of using AI on the inside of companies to review resumes, Reuters reported in 2018 that an Amazon experiment with AI to review applicants showed significant bias in its process. This experimental tool was apparently never actively used by the company. But many companies today, 5 years later, are actively using chat-bots to greet applicants and process their applications as well as parsing their resumes into Applicant Tracking Systems. To date I am unaware of any company that is actively allowing their AI to reject applicants, it seems that privilege is still fortunately in the hands of a human on the other side of the screen.

So how about writing your resume and cover letters by using some form of AI like ChatGPT, is that inherently evil? What I have found is that ChatGPT is initially very verbose in its descriptions of anything, and that is also true regarding skills and achievements on resumes. So of course, once it spits something out the person making the request has to refine their request to either focus or shorten the information it spits out. Again, the person making the request of ChatGPT must also be on hand to refine the results. So is it really helping? I have also frequently said that the resume “loses its soul” when AI is used to create it. While this is my own way of invoking images of “I,Robot” what I really mean is that the resume itself needs to tell a story about your career and only you, the creator, knows what that story is and how you want it told. So what does that mean for the job hunter?

The AI tools available today may not, without a fair amount of guidance, be able to create a resume in a way that another person will be able to draw the conclusions intended by the person who submitted it for a job. While some will surely argue with me when I say AI will not get you there, I do believe that we are on our way there at a pretty rapid pace.

Some companies are laying off their recruiting professionals with the hopes of ultimately replacing them with AI bots that they presume will do a better, or at least faster, job of screening candidates than the previous experiments have. These bots would then only forward on to hiring managers the most relevant, and ideallydiverse population of applicants. That part of the process may be an effective use of AI as long as it doesn’t demonstrate bias in some unexpected way. But I can say with confidence, that when it comes to effectively closing those deals and negotiating the offers with savvy top tier talent who know their market value, they will realize that is not yet a skill set that AI can bring to the table.

Getting back to my “I, Robot” imagery, science fiction author Isaac Asimov first published the 3 laws of robotics in 1950. The first of those 3 laws is; “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Putting aside for just a moment all of the automation over the last 50 years or more that has eliminated many manufacturing and manual labor roles, if we define present day AI as a form of “robot” we find ourselves leaning further forward towards the future Asimov imagined. As we look at the world today and the impact of AI advancement coupled with multiple layoffs in technical, manufacturing, and other sectors, can we honestly say that the first law is not already being “broken”? I guess that is all the more reason to be aware that we are in a real world where we are facing and will continue to confront real issues with this advancing technology and not in some science fiction story no matter how prophetic it may seem.

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